Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

September 25, 2012

Diary of Gideon Welles

September 25, Thursday. Had some talk to-day with Chase on financial matters. Our drafts on Barings now cost us 29 percent. I object to this as presenting an untrue statement of naval expenditures, — unjust to the Navy Department as well as incorrect in fact. If I draw for $100,000 it ought not to take from the naval appropriation $129,000. No estimates, no appropriations by Congress, embrace the $29,000 brought on by the mistaken Treasury policy of depreciating the currency. I therefore desire the Secretary of the Treasury to place $100,000 in the hands of the Barings to the credit of the Navy Department, less the exchange. This he declines to do, but insists on deducting the difference between money and inconvertible paper, which I claim to be wrong, because in our foreign expenditures the paper which his financial policy forces upon us at home is worthless abroad. The depreciation is the result of a mistaken financial policy, and illustrates its error and tendency to error.

The departure from a specie standard and the adoption of an irredeemable paper currency deranges the finances and is fraught with disastrous consequences. This vitiation of the currency is the beginning of evil, — a fatal mistake, which will be likely to overwhelm Chase and the Administration, if he and they remain here long enough.

Had some conversation with Chase relating to the War. He is much discouraged, thinks the President is, believes the President is disposed to let matters take their course, deplores this state of things but can see no relief. I asked if the principal source of the difficulty was not in the fact that we actually had not a War Department. Stanton is dissatisfied, and he and those under his influence do not sustain and encourage McClellan, yet he needs to be constantly stimulated, inspired, and pushed forward. It was, I said, apparent to me, and I thought to him, that the Secretary of War, though arrogant and often offensive in language, did not direct army movements; he appears to have something else than army operations in view. The army officers here, or others than he, appear to control military movements. Chase was disturbed by my remarks. Said Stanton had not been sustained, and his Department had become demoralized, but he (C.) should never consent to remain if Stanton left. I told him he misapprehended me. I was not the man to propose the exclusion of Stanton, or any one of our Cabinet associates, but we must look at things as they are and not fear to discuss them. It was our duty to meet difficulties and try to correct them. It was wrong for him, or any one, to say he would not remain and do his duty if the welfare of the country required a change of policy or a personal change in any one Department. If Stanton was militarily unfit, indifferent, dissatisfied, or engaged in petty personal intrigues against a man whom he disliked, to the neglect of the duties with which he was intrusted, or had not the necessary administrative ability, was from rudeness or any other cause offensive, we ought not to shut our eyes to the fact. If a man were to be brought into the War Department, or proposed to be brought in, with heart and mind in the cause, sincere, earnest, and capable, who would master the generals and control them, break up cliquism, and bring forward those officers who had the highest military qualities, we ought not to object to it. I knew not that such a change was thought of. Without controverting or assenting, he said Stanton had given way just as Cameron did, and in that way lost command and influence. It is evident that Chase takes pretty much the same views that I do, but has not made up his mind to act upon his convictions. He feels that he has been influenced by Stanton, whose political and official support he wants in his aspirations, but begins to have a suspicion that S. is unreliable. They have consulted and acted in concert and C. had flattered himself that he had secured S. in his interest, but must have become aware that there is a stronger tie between Seward and Stanton than any cord of his. C. is not always an acute and accurate reader of men, but he cannot have failed to detect some of the infirm traits of Stanton. When I declined to make myself a party to the combination against McClellan and refused to sign the paper which Chase brought me, Stanton, with whom I was not very intimate, spoke to me in regard to it. I told Stanton I thought the course proposed was disrespectful to the President. Stanton said he felt under no obligation to Mr. Lincoln, that the obligations were the other way, both to him and to me. His remarks made an impression on me most unfavorable, and confirmed my previous opinion that he is not faithful and true but insincere.

The real character of J. P. Hale is exhibited in a single transaction. He wrote me an impertinent and dictatorial letter which I received on Wednesday morning, admonishing me not to violate law in the appointment of midshipmen. Learning from my answer that I was making these appointments notwithstanding his warning and protest, he had the superlative meanness to call on Assistant Secretary Fox, and request him, if I was actually making the appointments which he declares to be illegal, to procure on his (Hale’s) application the appointment of a lad for whom he felt an interest. This is after his supercilious letter to me, and one equally supercilious to Fox, which the latter showed me, in which he buttoned up his virtue to the throat and said he would never acquiesce in such a violation of the law. Oh, John P. Hale, how transparent is thy virtue! Long speeches, loud professions, Scriptural quotations, funny anecdotes, vehement denunciations avail not to cover thy nakedness, which is very bald.

The President has issued a proclamation on martial law, — suspension of habeas corpus he terms it, meaning, of course, a suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Of this proclamation, I knew nothing until I saw it in the papers, and am not sorry that I did not. I question the wisdom or utility of a multiplicity of proclamations striking deep on great questions.

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